What?!?!? More judgmental? Shane, have you lost your mind?!? Everyone knows that Jesus said we are not supposed to judge each other. “Judge not lest ye be judged!” And see, I even quoted it King James style just to let you know I’m really angry!!
If I may slip a word in edgewise, let me explain what I mean by “judgmental.” I don’t mean hyper-critical, or hypo-critical, but I do mean critical – critical in the sense of holding each other accountable when we need it.
And it turns out, that’s what Jesus meant as well. Look at the full context of the verse you quoted-
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
Was Jesus condemning all “speck removal”? Not at all. In fact, Jesus quite plainly says that he wants us to be able to see clearly enough to take the speck out of our brother’s eye. But what Jesus was condemning was a hypocritical mindset that is eager to point out the mistakes in the lives of others while self-righteously ignoring the glaring problems in our own life.
We know for certain that Jesus was not opposed to making any judgments. In the very next verse, he insists that we make a very serious judgment:
Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (Matthew 7:6)
Who are “dogs” and who are “pigs”? We have to decide – judge – who fits this description.
A few verses later, Jesus goes on to say that we must discriminate between right and wrong choices to make:
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)
And in the next breath, he warns about the insidious danger of false prophets, who we must distinguish from those who teach the truth-
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-16)
Taken in its broader context, Jesus’ statement that we should not judge simply cannot mean that we are never to make critical judgments about a person’s character, or about certain beliefs, or about choices in life. What Jesus is teaching is that we must do so from a profoundly humble posture that has as its first impulse careful introspection rather than careless criticism.
But just as surely as a speck in the eye needs to be removed before it causes permanent harm, we need to help each other confront the mistakes we have made before those mistakes cause greater damage. Here’s how Paul expresses the point:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)
Like Jesus, Paul says that we should help heal or restore a brother who has slipped into sin (has a speck in the eye). And like Jesus, Paul says that we should do so having first examined our own behavior (“keep watch on yourself”), guarding against prideful self-righteousness (“lest you too be tempted”). But the bottom line is the same. In the right spirit, and with the right motives, we need to call each other to account. According to Paul, this is a measure of whether we are truly “spiritual.”
I’m convinced that the root problem with many of the hot-button issues prevalent in our culture right now is the refusal of professed Christians to hold each other accountable. For instance, the generation that is younger than me really struggles with the clear biblical teaching that same-sex actions are sinful. It seems arbitrary to them for this one behavior to be singled out as sinful. But same-sex conduct is not singled out for censure. ANY sexual relationship outside of the one man + one woman for life relationship of marriage is sinful. When the Pharisees came to Jesus to ask him about divorce, here’s how Jesus answered the question:
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)
According to Jesus, God’s design is the inseparable “one flesh” relationship of a man and woman in marriage. Since divorce violates this design, Jesus condemns it, and says that remarriage after divorce (with one exception) constitutes adultery:
And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery. (Matthew 19:9)
So does this mean that homosexual acts are sinful? Yes. But it also means that premarital sex, extra marital sex, and divorce and remarriage are wrong as well. The reason that the biblical injunctions against homosexual conduct seem arbitrary is because far too many professed Christians have been arbitrary in what they have taught and practiced. Christians who wink at sex outside of marriage or casually engage in serial divorce and remarriage but suddenly draw the line at homosexuality aren’t living by conviction; they are just bigots.
Similarly, how many Christians object to the horror of abortion as an affront to the sacred value of human life while at the same time harboring prejudice toward others merely because their skin is a different color? Have we held each other accountable for racial prejudice, or have we just swept it under the rug? Aborting a fetus is wrong because that human being bears the image of God. But what about hurling racial epithets?
With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:9-10)
We can’t claim to stand for the dignity of human life while despising and denigrating human beings whose skin is a different shade than our own.
Brothers and sisters, the world can see through our inconsistencies. And above all, the Lord who judges the thoughts and intents of our heart can see through us (Hebrews 4:12-13). The answer is not to surrender to the culture and walk away from the standards of God’s revealed truth. The answer is for us to be more consistent, to hold each other to greater accountability, to “judge” each other with a deeper and holier love for God and one another.